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A review of the new generation of weight loss supplements.
As it became evident that ephedra was going to be pulled from the market,
supplement companies scrambled to find other natural products for weight loss.
One new trend is to promote weight loss by reducing cortisol levels and balancing
Cortisol is one of the hormones released by the adrenal glands in excess when
you’re chronically stressed, which applies to many of us these days.
Like other hormones, cortisol is essential to good health but damaging when
it’s too high or too low. Chronically high cortisol increases appetite,
especially for sugar and carbohydrates; creates weight gain around the middle;
contributes to short term memory loss; depletes bone and suppresses the immune
system. It also increases your risk for breast cancer. If your cortisol is
elevated for years on end, eventually you’ll end up with tired adrenals,
never-ending fatigue and unstable blood sugar that may lead to diabetes.
Ideally you would revive your adrenals and reduce your cortisol levels by
reducing and managing stress, eating well, exercising moderately and getting
plenty of sleep in a dark room.
The New Generation
If you need a little extra help, the new generation of supplements such as
Relacore and Cortislim are designed to reduce cortisol levels by helping you
relax and stabilizing your blood sugar. The primary ingredient is an extract
of magnolia bark (Magnolia Officinalis Cortex), which has a long history
of use in Chinese medicine for “wind-stroke, cold damage, headache, cold
and heat, fright qi, blood impediment and dead muscle (from Subhuti Dharmananda
of the Institute for Traditional Medicine). The term “fright qi” probably
comes closest to describing the condition of chronic stress, which Dharmananda
says is associated with “emotional distress, …digestive disturbances
associated with fear and anxiety, and shortness of breath due to emotional
Along with the magnolia, both Cortislim and Relacore contain some vitamin
C and calcium. Cortislim also contains chromium, a trace mineral that helps
stabilize blood sugar; L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that promotes
relaxation, and a handful of other ingredients that promote balanced blood
Relacore contains a smattering of B vitamins, magnesium, and a smattering
of herbs that promote relaxation and stable blood sugar.
Source Naturals has a product called Relora that contains magnolia and Phellodendron
amurense. There’s not a lot of research available on Phellodendron,
but in Chinese medicine it’s used as an anti-inflammatory and to help
balance blood sugar.
Chinese medicine texts warn against the use of both magnolia and phellodendron
if you have digestion problems.
Can these products help you lose weight? Maybe. But this has to be said: they’re
no substitute for a wholesome diet and moderate exercise.
As an aside, it’s interesting that the FDA removed ephedra from the
market but left allergy and cold medications containing pseudoephedrine on
the pharmacy aisles. They’re basically the same thing. Thus one is led
to assume that the motivation for removing ephedra from the market was about
something other than protecting the public health.
According to the Nutrition Business Journal, sales of ephedra in 2002
amounted to $1.28 billion. Those who still want to lose weight by using “uppers” are
probably now putting all that money into the pockets of the drug companies
that sell pseudoephedrine.
Drugs that lower cholesterol levels are among the top sellers in the pharmaceutical
industry, and yet for decades the research on them has clearly shown that their
side effects often outweigh their benefits. And believe it or not, there has
never been any definitive proof that high cholesterol levels are a cause heart
attacks. The “disease” of high cholesterol was created around and
for cholesterol-lowering drugs. In truth, high cholesterol is a symptom of
heart disease in much the same sense that a fever is a symptom of the flu.
Lowering your fever might help you feel a little bit better, but it won’t
make the flu go away, nor will lowering cholesterol with a drug make your heart
disease go away.
Heart disease isn't the only disease that causes high levels of blood cholesterol.
Diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease and liver disease can also significantly
raise cholesterol levels.
The “High Cholesterol Levels Cause Heart Attacks” Myth
Cholesterol is a fat-like material which is found in the brain, nerves, blood,
bile and liver. It is the stuff from which your steroid hormones are made,
and it is essential for good brain function. Another function of cholesterol
is to stick to damaged places in the arteries as part of a repair process,
and that’s where it got it’s reputation for causing heart attacks.
However, what actually causes the damaged arteries in the first place
are factors such as excess sugar and refined carbohydrates in the diet, hydrogenated
oils, obesity, stress and toxins.
The “Saturated Fats Raise Cholesterol Levels” Myth
The myths about cholesterol are closely tied into the myths about cholesterol-containing
saturated fats, which were incorrectly pegged as a major cause of heart disease
more than 40 years ago. Ironically, saturated fat probably became linked to
heart disease because in studies it was lumped in with hydrogenated oils. In
other words, in heart disease studies, consumption of hydrogenated oils was
never separated out from consumption of other oils—it was ignored or
included with data on saturated fats. In all likelihood, it was the hydrogenated
oils causing the damaged arteries, not the saturated fats.
It is also a myth that eating cholesterol-containing foods raises your cholesterol
levels. This is only true for about 30 percent of the population. Your body
manufactures about 75 percent of its own cholesterol from the breakdown products
of foods we eat. The rest we get directly from what we eat. If we eat more
cholesterol, the body makes less or it is broken down by the liver and excreted.
People who eat extremely excessive amounts of cholesterol-containing foods
so that the body is unable to keep up with the elimination process, or whose
livers are not functioning properly, may have high cholesterol due to their
eating habits, but this is an exception, not the rule.
A recent Harvard School of Public Health study published in the November 2004 American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the daily diets and coronary arteries
of 235 menopausal women for three years. Three quarters of the women were
overweight, and the majority of them were eating less fat overall than the
average American. The researchers were surprised to find that the women who
had eaten the highest amount of saturated fats had the least amount of additional
plaque buildup in their arteries and better cholesterol profiles (lower LDL,
higher HDL, lower transfatty acids). The women with the most plaque buildup
were eating the most refined carbohydrates and exercising the least.
Statin Drugs Interfere with Brain Function
The most popular class of cholesterol-lowering drugs is the statins, also
known as cholesterol blockers, which interfere with an enzyme needed for cholesterol
production. The most common side effect of these drugs is liver damage. Other
side effects include enlarged breasts in men, impotence, hair loss in women,
insomnia and fatigue. The fatigue may have to do with the fact that statin
drugs block the production of coenzyme Q10, a substance essential to a healthy
heart and healthy muscles. About one in every 200 people who use statins has
side effects of muscle pain and weakness. All indications are that the cause
of these symptoms is a deficiency of CoQ10.
Now a new study published in the December 1, 2004American Journal of Medicine points
up another side effect of the drug simvastatin (Zocor), which is that it reduces
cognitive function, in this case attention, working memory and overall mental
efficiency. The same team at the University of Pittsburgh that did this study
also found that statin drugs reduce blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids which
are well documented to be essential for good brain function.
Back to Basics
A good cholesterol profile is a reflection of good overall health. The basics
of maintaining a good cholesterol profile are avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates,
eating fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, beans and vegetables, and getting
plenty of exercise.
For more details on how cholesterol really works in your body, read the booklet John R. Lee M.D.'s Commonsense Guide to a Healthy Heart, available on
If you’d like to know more about saturated fat myths and research, as
well as get a wonderful cookbook, read Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook
that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by
Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.
Last fall research compiled from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI)
was presented at a medical meeting and not coincidentally was picked up by
all the major news networks. It claimed that birth control pills reduce breast
cancer risk and heart disease risk. This was big news because it contradicts
decades of research, but coming from the WHI, most people took it at face value.
Then in December, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is in
charge of the WHI, announced that the research had not been reviewed by the
study’s leaders nor by the government before it was presented, and that
it was flawed. However, that news did not make it into all of the major
news outlets. In fact, it would probably never have shown up anywhere if it
wasn’t for the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN), an activist
group that publicly challenged the findings of the research.
This is pretty much politics as usual in the drug industry. I would hazard
a guess—and this is my opinion only—that this “research,” the
presentation at the medical meeting, and especially the coordinated and widespread
airing of the results in the media, was a shadow play completely orchestrated
by PR companies working for the pharmaceutical industry. The drug companies
don’t really care about the back peddling on the results by the WHI,
because the damage has already been done—millions of women and their
doctors now happily but incorrectly believe that using chemical birth control
will help them live a longer and healthier life because they heard it on CNN
and the nightly news. I sure am looking forward to Michael Moore’s expose
on the pharmaceutical industry.
If you’d like details on the effects of chemical birth control, please
read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About PREmenopause.
Letter to a Patient: Resolving the Underlying Causes of a Stroke
Dear Mrs. M,
Over the past 30 years, a number of studies have confirmed that five years
of Premarin (when not balanced with progesterone) increases stroke risk by
300%. While it is impossible to say that any given stroke is due to any certain
cause, it is my opinion that, given your excellent health and family history,
unopposed estrogen (Premarin) was most likely the cause of your stroke.
Further, if your doctors had been aware, they could have given you progesterone
starting the day of the stroke. Research has found that progesterone limits
the area of damage to any given stroke or head injury. I hope that you will
make a complete recovery.
Yes, you should be using progesterone in doses of 10 to 12 mg per day for
25 to 26 days of the calendar month. If vaginal dryness is a problem, it is
safe to use small doses of estriol (not estradiol or estrone) as a vaginal
application using just 0.5 mg of estriol twice a week. Estriol is the estrogen
made in large amounts during a pregnancy. Unlike other estrogens, there is
no evidence that estriol causes breast cancer or strokes. It should eventually
help your hot flashes, also.
If your doctor prescribes a low fat diet it means that he/she has not kept
up with health science over the past 10 to 15 years. Fats and oils that humans
used for millions of years are all fine. There are bad fats called “trans
fats” [e.g. hydrogenated oils] which have become altered in processing.
They are no longer fats found in nature and they are all bad.
Drink plenty of good water to prevent dehydration. And avoid sugar and highly
refined starches, such as rolls, sweets, pancakes, waffles, etc. You are probably
a bit too young to remember that in, in primary school grades, children made
paste from flour and water. Your don’t want to have flour and water in
your blood vessels.
It is usually best to choose a diet of fresh, unprocessed vegetables, fruit,
seeds, and nuts picked in season and in good variety. Fish, seafood in general,
eggs, and cheese are fine. But avoid drinking milk. Cows’ milk is meant
for baby cows, and not meant for adults of any mammals including humans. Cheese,
which has undergone some fermentation, seems to be OK. Red meat is OK in modest
amounts, and best obtained from free-range, rather than feed-lot animals.
Hope the above is helpful.
John R. Lee, M.D.
Helene Leonetti, M.D. who was a great friend and colleague of Dr. Lee’s
has gotten approval from Lehigh Valley Hospital in Bethlehem, PA to begin a
major research study titled “The Role of Transdermal Progesterone Cream
in Increased Osteoblastic Activity and Delay of Osteoporosis in Women over
70 Years of Age.” This was a study that Dr. Lee had wanted done for years.
Dr. Leonetti is looking to recruit 200 women, 70 years and older, living within
a few hours’ drive of Bethlehem with the following qualifications:
- Not be taking thyroid replacement, hormone replacement
- Not taking anti-resorptive drugs (e.g. Fosamax, Actonel, Evista)
- Must be independent and responsible enough to commit to this regimen for
at least one year.
Each woman will receive a baseline bone mineral density test and have blood
drawn to measure TSH, FSH, and for a lipid profile.
If you’re interested in participating, please call Dr. Leonetti’s
office at: (610) 882-3100.